Japanese Language Blog

Japanese Culture: Using Chopsticks Posted by on Nov 9, 2008 in Culture

How many of you use chopsticks?  For first-timers, chopstick use can be daunting and difficult at the same time.  However, if you follow the Japanese mochikata (もちかた), or the way in which you should hold chopsticks, you will be able to use chopsticks seamlessly, in no time.  First, hold the chopsticks using only your middle finger, index finger and thumb.  If you grip your chopsticks using all your fingers, this is considered a bit crude, so please avoid that. Make sure that one stick is resting between your thumb and index finger.  If you find that you are unable to prevent the stick from falling, try resting it slightly against your bottom ring finger.  The other stick should be held with the middle finger, index finger and thumb.  Pretend you are about to write with a pencil, and grasp the chopsticks with your fingers held in that position.


When you’re ready to use your chopsticks, remember to move the stick that is being held by the third finger, index and thumb.  Do not hold the chopsticks as if you are holding a walking stick.  This is not an elegant practice and is called nigiribashi (にぎりばし).  This may seem really obvious, but chopsticks are used to pick food up, not to stab food, as you would with a fork.  Therefore if you’re having trouble picking something up, place one end of the chopstick on the bottom of the food and the other end on the top, and scoop it up.  Also, if the dish is far away from you, do not use the chopstick to drag the bowl towards your plate.  This is a breach of etiquette and is called yosebashi (よせばし).   Again, if something is far away from you, avoid extending your whole arm over to pick up the food.  This practice is called zengoshi (ぜんごし)  and is considered rude.  Instead, pick up the bowl and carry it towards yourself, or ask someone to pass it over to you.


Thinking of sharing a dish with others?  Well here are some more tips, some of which may seem like common sense.  For example, don’t lick your chopsticks.  This practice is considered distasteful and is called nuburibashi (ぬぶりばし).  If you need to wipe the ends of your chopsticks, just get a napkin.  Trust me!  It’s much more sanitary this way; especially if you’re sharing a dish with others!  Also, I’ve noticed that some people place their chopsticks in their mouth while they pass a dish with their hands.  Not only is this dangerous to do, but it’s also a breach of etiquette called kuwaebashi (くわえばし).  It’s better to set the chopsticks down on the table and pick them back up once your hands are available.  While it may seem like using chopsticks is a complicated matter, some of the rules are really just common sense.  Just be considerate of others and you can’t go wrong. 


Don’t take this clip seriously, it’s just a joke but here’s a funny chopstick tutorial:

Tags: ,
Keep learning Japanese with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it